The Great Pyramid of Egypt is deemed as one of the World’s Seven Wonders. For more than 43 centuries, the pyramid was ranked as the tallest structure in the earth. But aside from its magnificence what makes it as a true wonder is how these Pharaohs managed such an enormous feat when there were no engineers and construction equipment to use. As such this will always remain a mystery but for today’s managers in order to create something as grandeur as the Egypt’s pyramid, it will only take proper project management skills to successfully carry out a project.
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Nowadays, projects are ubiquitous. From the simple objective of political campaign to the complicated tasks of launching a rocket, project management is used everywhere by everybody. With this, it is considered as the driving force in most industries for leaders recognize that they are increasingly managing project-driven organization. They recognize that to be successful, they need to be conversant with and use modern project management techniques.
Likewise to partially illustrate the importance of such tools, this paper shall discuss different approaches to project planning and control particularly in managing resources. These techniques as well as its benefits and limitations will be presented through the use of two business cases.
Case I: Bojan Ltd.
Bojan Ltd. operates in a rent a car industry that caters to other commercial businesses. To further satisfy its customers, the company is in the midst of searching for a supply of its vehicles. As such, the Project Manager (PM) is tasked to outline all the activities addressed to this problem using Project Network Diagram (PND), Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) and Critical Path Method (CPM).
To start off the project, the PM listed 18 activities that must be performed to produce the project deliverables. (See Table 1.1) This list also shows the relationship between the project activities and the estimated number of work periods that are needed to complete the individual activities.
PND was drawn out of these data and was used to determine the start and finish dates of each task and the entire project. Figure 1.1 shows the PND including the detailed schedule data for each activity shown in Early Start (ES), Early Finish (EF), Latest Start (LS) and Latest Finish (LF). The diagram also presented the critical path wherein the nodes in red represent the critical activities. These activities were identified by subtracting the activity’s ES from its LS. If the float is zero then it falls as a critical activity; otherwise the activity has a slack wherein it is allowed to be delayed without affecting the project’s total duration. In this project there are six non-critical activities (F, G, J, M, P, R) which totals to eighteen days of float.
As shown above, the activities’ A-B-C-D-E-H-I-K-L-N-O-R make up the critical path and by adding the duration of each activity it shows the shortest time in which a project can be completed. For this project adding the entire critical path’s duration (1+1+ 4+5+8 +10+10+6+8+10+12+1), it will take 76 days for its fulfillment. For example if the project will commence on May 3 and assuming that there will be no delays and will be completed using a 5 day working week, the project will be finished on its 16th week specifically on the 23rd of August.
If in case non-critical activities are delayed, it will not bring about delay for it has a slack. If the delay is equals or less than its slack, it has a time leeway that can be used without adverse effect on the project time completion. For example a one day interruption occurred during Activity P will have no effect on the project’s target end date for only its EF and LS will be affected. (See Table 1.4) This case is also the same if Activity Q is one day delayed and if two day holdup happened during Activity M.
Throughout the project, PND was applied since time management is often the main source of conflict and using such tool will help PM to tinker with the relationships between tasks and create alternative solutions to increase productivity, profitability, and the diligence of a project. Moreover other than this function, PND also serves four other purposes (Super Business, n.d.).
Case II: Carr Ltd.
Carr Ltd. supplies an array of fitness equipment to various health and fitness clubs. However the company wants to expand this offering by diversifying its product and market. In this light, the organization will be undertaking a series of activities to launch hydraulic resistance machines to various school gyms. To manage all these tasks, project integration management will be conducted to coordinate all the project elements throughout its lifecycle. Figure 2.1 illustrates the integration’s seven main processes to ensure the project’s completion.
The project charter is an announcement that names the new project, the purpose of the project and the PM (Verzuh, 2005, p. 41). Form 2.1 shows the project charter for this specific project.
Preliminary Project Scope Statement
The scope statement is a document used to develop and confirm a common understanding of the project scope. As such Form 2.2 describes the work to be accomplished in this project as this will help in preventing project creep – the tendency of a project scope to get bigger and bigger (Schwalbe, 2008, p. 149).
Project Management Plan
The project management plan provides a snapshot of the whole project as it contains all the necessary data for project execution and control. The plan aims to coordinate and integrate all other project management knowledge area. Moreover it is kept flexible in order to adapt to future project changes. The contents of the project’s management plans are as follows:
The project overview contains the basic idea of the project. It gives the project management team a summary of what should and should not be accomplished at the end of the project.
Management and Technical Approach
This part of the plan consists of various documents on the ways the project will be run through. As such it is divided into four parts and these are management objectives, project controls, risk management and project staffing.
- Management Objectives – identifies the top management views, project priorities and constraints. Through this, the team can concentrate on what must be done and can recognize the probable project limits. Form 2.4 shows the project’s management objectives.
Form 2.4: Management Objectives
- Project Controls – describes the monitoring of the project’s progress and its change management. For this project, the team has decided to conduct a weekly status review to ensure that the project is completed on time as well as to handle the change effectively. Moreover every after the progress meeting, a project status report is to be filled out and if there will be a need for change, a project change request must be first completed before any change implementation.
- Risk Management – identifies the risks and the ways to manage and control perils that will restrain the project’s success. Form 2.7 lists the project’s risk management techniques that will allow the team to prepare for the risks and on how to react on them.
- Project Staffing – describes the human resource needs of the project. This document identifies the skills required for this project. As such, Form 2.8 provides a list of the qualifications needed for the project to ensure that it will be completed with highly skilled team members.
The scope management defines the work required to complete the project. This supports the preliminary scope statement for it clarifies and provides more specific details. With this end, a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is created to define the total scope of the project. Although this does not show the task’s dependencies and duration, the WBS provides a basis for planning and managing project schedules, costs, resources and changes (Young, 2007).
The project organization is represented by the Organizational Breakdown Structure (OBS). An OBS shows the decomposition of the project’s responsibilities based on its WBS. Through this, the PM can allocate responsibilities, and to distribute the work fairly and evenly among the team (Young, 2007, p. 132).
The project schedule provides a summary of the overall project schedule for it gives a baseline date of the project’s completion. As such Table 2.2 identifies the project schedule that will be used to measure the project’s progress to ensure the timely finish of the project. The table lists the relationships of each activity, the critical four dates and its critical path that are essential on identifying the project’s duration.
The project budget consists of project estimate and project budget wherein project estimate is the approximate cost of the resources needed to complete a project while project budget involves allocating the overall cost estimate to individual work items to establish a baseline for measuring performance. For this project in estimating its total cost, bottom-up estimate was done. Bottom-up estimate which is often called Activity Based Costing involves on estimating individual work items and summing them to get a project total (Schwalbe, 2008, p. 274). In this project, labor cost, production of promotional tools and the school presentation consume most of the budget. Form 2.9 provides a summary of the project’s estimated cost.
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Project execution is the stage of performing the actual work as approved in the plan. This phase probably takes 90 percent or more of the project’s effort. As such, the activities identified on the WBS are now being implemented to produce the project deliverables (Verzuh, 2005, p. 38). (Refer Figure 2.2 for the project’s WBS)
Consequently this point of project lifecycle involves on managing and performing the work described in the project management plan and so as to ensure that the project will be undertaken accordingly, the PM must perform these three tasks: Coordinating planning and execution; Providing strong leadership and a supportive culture; and Capitalizing on product, business and application area knowledge.
Project Monitoring and Controlling
- Project monitoring and controlling involves collecting, measuring and disseminating performance information. In this stage project status reports play a pivotal role wherein all the activities are being tracked to measure the overall health of the project. Seven criteria are used for effective tracking and these are: Work (is it to estimates (both time and cost)?; Measurement (is everyone clear how to measure progress?); Timescales (are work plans being completed on schedule?); Quality (are standards being met in accordance with specifications?); Teamwork (are responsibilities being adhered to?); Changes (are problem-solving tools being used effectively?); Stakeholders (are they being kept informed, consulted and involved?) (Young, 2007, p.211).
In addition to this, since scope, schedule and cost comprise the success criteria for the project, these three are the primary focus on monitoring the project’s progress. Table 2.4 lists various methods on monitoring these factors.
The purpose of tracking the project’s progress is to ensure that the team always have the information to make an accurate assessment of what has happened and compare it with what should have happen according to the plan. Through this comparison, the team can take corrective actions to such variance. For example, it was identified that the project is lagging behind, specifically in doing the marketing plan due to conflicting ideas. As such, various proposals were raised and one of these is to work overtime. With this corrective action, the impending effect on project schedule was countered. Figure 2.3 summarizes the monitoring and controlling system for this project.
Integrated Change Control
Integrated change control is a management process for requesting, reviewing, approving, carrying out and controlling changes to the project’s deliverables (Wallace 2007). Using the Project Change Request Form (Form 2.6) the project can achieve an efficient change control through understanding the source requiring the change, identifying the pros and cons of adapting to the change and preparing plan in implementing the change. With this end, Figure 2.4 illustrates the project’s change control process (Westland, 2003).
After recognizing the need for change, Configuration Management is then implemented. Configuration management controls the different versions of the project. It focuses specifically on how to implement approved changes as it keeps everyone in the project reading from the same sheet of music. For example, if the product proposal was changed midway through the project. This should be communicated to all the team members through updating the project reports so that the sub-teams responsible for the other parts of the marketing plan can make adjustments. If this is failed to do so, this will lead to confusing marketing plan. As such if the product package is targeting the low-end schools but the pricing suggests a premium rate for the fitness equipment, this results to inconsistencies. To avoid this kind of scenario, they must perform this three configuration management step: Identify the items that will be controlled, set up the control structure, and assign responsibility for control (Verzuh, 2005, p.302).
Project closure is the smallest phase of the project but no less than important than the others. This stage is signified by all tasks and specific deliverables, documentation manuals and process procedures are finished and to identify if the project is finally completed Table 2.5 lists a closure checklist.
When the project is deemed as completed, a close-out meeting is conducted to culminate all the efforts of the team member. The purpose of this meeting is to reach an agreement with the sponsor, in this case with Carr Ltd, to formally close the project. As such, Form 2.10 shows a sample of close-out meeting agenda.
However the close-out meeting is not yet the end of the project for final report are yet to be done. This report includes project evaluation and project appraisal. Project evaluation is used to review the project processes and the management of the project. There are two modes of evaluating the project; active evaluation is conducted when the project is still in the works while post-project evaluation is after the project’s turnover to the sponsor. On the other hand, project appraisal assesses the project as a whole for it determines the gains and losses of the project. These assessments are done with the purpose to learn from experience and to improve future projects.
In addition to this in every project undertaken, benefits are always expected on them. In some cases, benefits are achieved after sometime the project has been concluded. In this project however, the benefit has been realized even before the project closure. Carr Ltd gained a new income stream in this diversification project via the agreed upon contracts with the customers (schools) for it signifies the payment terms (tangible benefits).
tegration management is often regarded as the key to overall project success for it ties together all areas of project management. Thus this holds the primary focus of a PM.
Project management has come a long way since the formation of the pyramids in Egypt. Nowadays organizations have a renewed interest on this specific field as the number of projects continues to grow and their complexity continues to increase. This can be majorly attributed to the rise of modern project management tools and techniques for projects differ from the ongoing operations of a firm, managing those presents a new set of challenges. With this it resulted to developing tools and techniques that will deal with these challenges (Verzuh, 2005, p. 1).
Accordingly throughout the paper, it presented various project management techniques. In the first case of Bojan Ltd, the use of network diagram was illustrated to stress the importance of completing the project on time. On the other hand, Carr Ltd’s problem of managing its new initiative was resolved by the project management integration that aims to ensure that all project elements come together at the right time to complete the project successfully. As such, the use of these tools emphasized that project management is a valued skill set in organizations across the spectrum.
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- Verzuh, E., 2005. The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management. 2nd Edition. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
- Young, T., 2007. The Handbook of Project Management. 2nd Edition. United Kingdom: Kogan Page
- Westland, J., 2003. Project Management Guidebook. United States of America: Method 1-2-3. [E-book] Available at: http://www.thoughtware.com.au/documents/method123-ebook.pdf [Accessed on 11 March 2010]
- Burns, M., 2005. Never Say No – Managing Change in a Project. [Online] Available at: http://www.easyweb.co.uk/articles/change-control.html [Accessed on 11 March 2010]
- Super-Business, n.d. Creating a Project Network Diagram. [Online] Available at: http://www.super-business.net/IT-Project-Management/172.html [Accessed 23 February 2010]
- Wallace, S., 2007. Scope & Change Control. [Online] Available at: http://www.epmbook.com/scope.htm [Accessed 11 March 2010]
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